Drill sites give clue to future path of road tunnel

From The Age

IS THIS the path the controversial east-west road tunnel will cut through the inner city?

In an application to Melbourne City Council the Baillieu government is requesting approval for 13 test drilling sites in Royal Park and surrounding suburbs to plan for the multibillion-dollar project.

In an indication of its preferred route for the tunnel, maps show the drill sites run in a direct line from Alexandra Parade under the Melbourne Cemetery and Royal Park.

At the back of the indicative route the drill sites split, suggesting locations for inbound and outbound connections to CityLink in Royal Park and nearby neighbourhoods.

The application for ”preliminary geotechnical drilling” is part of a $15 million business case being prepared for the 18-kilometre tunnel, which tops the Baillieu government’s infrastructure wish-list.

The government says the project will ease traffic congestion on Melbourne’s roads and create an alternative cross-city route for cars and trucks. Since it was first proposed under the previous state government the tunnel has faced heated local opposition over tolls and concerns over its impact on the inner city and parkland.

The project received a boost earlier this month when Opposition Leader Tony Abbott committed $1.5 billion to help build it. It has been reported federal Labor could also commit funding later this year.

The application to Melbourne City Council notes previous comments by state Transport Minister Terry Mulder that ”drilling in a particular area did not necessarily mean that the east-west link would be situated or have an impact on that location”.

A spokeswoman for the state government said yesterday it was committed to the future of the east-west link. She said the tunnel would comprise a new 18-kilometre inner-urban freeway connecting the Eastern Freeway and the Western Ring Road, with key intermediate connections including the Tullamarine Freeway, Port of Melbourne and Geelong Road.

”The government is seeking approval from City of Melbourne to continue its geotechnical drilling program, which is being undertaken to determine the best connection points on a cost-benefit basis,” she said.

According to the application, a 10-centimetre borehole will be drilled at each site to a depth of 50 to 65 metres to test soil and rock conditions. A device will also be inserted to test the water table and the borehole will then be backfilled with sand and capped. Each test drill will take four to five days to complete.

The tunnel project has emerged as one of the major issues in the upcoming by-election for the state seat of Melbourne being fought between Labor and the Greens.

Deputy Labor leader Transport Minister said last night that Ted Baillieu ”can play charades all he likes but the simple facts are he is proposing to drill holes on an unfunded project that is unlikely to ever be built, while road congestion in Melbourne worsens”.

Greens leader Greg Barber said Labor’s opposition to the tunnel was expedient and for the cost of the project Melbourne could have a ”dream public transport system”.

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/drill-sites-give-clue-to-future-path-of-road-tunnel-20120708-21pjp.html#ixzz2JztCdABo